Month: May 2006

New temperature record in the animal housing unit!

This morning, the temperature in the animal housing unit was 10.5°C in all the rooms and 13.7°C in the room where the rats are sleeping. As explained in the ad hoc page of the university website, they turned the general heating system off since May, 15th, regardless of the weather conditions. Since then, I’ve clearly observed a drop in temperature. But today is the worst, not only for scientists who are trying to work in these conditions but also for the precious animals we take care of (the recommended temperature range by all ethical committees is 20-25°C).

low temperature at the university of Liege

I can understand the need for saving money in a small university like the ULg. But, while the rector is worried about many important subjects like Open Access, people without regular stay permit, the ULg ranking, …, I think authorities should also care about what really makes their university: students and scientists (or, more broadly, people who contribute to research). Students are in exam; they should not worry too much about the cold (well, 4 hours in the cold for a written exam is not necessarily good for their performance). Scientists are working for the reputation of the university and the cold is not encouraging. Moreover, for life scientists, if animals are not in good conditions, it means bad experiments and bad (or, even worse, wrong) results.

Overall, I don’t think that the university is really saving money by turning the heating system off. People are buying personal heating systems and turn them on at full power (in opposition with the ULg advices to save electricity, PDF file, 43kb). I am personally using two additional heating systems a full power for the rats (but I can only add 4°C to the mean temperature). People are getting ill because of the cold; people not attending work cost money and cause delays. And finally, I am forced to re-do many experiments because my animals are not behaving like previously. Is all this worth the savings done by turning the heating system off?

Bioforum 2006, ISAL cultural evening, experiments … A very busy week!

This week was quite busy … In the proteomic lab, I released the first version of IPGPhor2 Reader (see also the previous post). Of course, since we didn’t fail any recent experiment 😉 we don’t see the immediate usefullness of this software. The main purpose of this software is that it allows to see where and when an experiment failed, how the current was given during the IEF and when it was not correctly supplied.

On the 17th (Wednesday), we participated to the Bioforum 2006, a “one-day meeting at the University of Liège between Bio-industries and young Life Sciences researchers”. I presented two posters:

  • one with my brother, Laurent (student in engineering), on a new system to monitor rodents activity
  • one with Thibaut Libert, from the Applied Sciences Faculty, on a new telemetric device to record rodent’sleep

Laurent, me and the poster (from right to left)
Laurent, me and the poster (from right to left)

Nandini, my wife, also presented her two posters at Bioforum 2006
Nandini, my wife, also presented her two posters at Bioforum 2006

In the evening of the 17th, we rushed to Leuven in order to participate to the Indian Cultural Evening organised by the ISAL (see this previous post announcing the event). We had the chance to see beautiful performances of dancing, singing, instruments playing artists. I was just in charge of filming the whole event. I am digitalising the film for the moment. I don’t know what the ISAL is planning to do with the DVD. But, anyway, I look forward for the next year cultural evening.

Some preparations before the Indian Cultural Evening, ISAL 2006
Some preparations before the Indian Cultural Evening

During this evening, we met a friend of Nandini’s family, Peter. This man is really fond of India and Indian culture. He can talk for hours and hours about it! During a very late evening meal in a quite good Indian restaurant in Leuven, we learn that he is currently giving classes about India at the KUL (the university in Leuven) and that he is showing one Indian film every week. We also learnt that IMEC will organize a big event about India, next month. Stay tuned to know more about it.

On Thursday, I continued to analyse my 2D gels. We made 15 gels (i.e. 45 gels images with the 2D-DiGE technique) in just one week. Now, it already took me more than one week to analyse these images … It will be a long process and we are not even sure to obtain results in agreement with current theories. On Friday, I transfered some of the last rodents I will use from the hospital animal housing unit to my lab. They are 6-months old and some of them weight around 0.5kg! I also supervised a chemist who create dyes for us. Now I remember why I didn’t chose chemistry: it’s full of strange names, all solutions have the same colour, they often smell very bad and, in my research centre, the chemists’labs are next to the radioactive labs …

No wonder we slept up to 11.00 today!

Release of IPGPhor2Reader

IPGPhor is a device from GE Healthcare (formerly Amersham Biosciences) that performs an isoelectrofocusing of proteins. Version 2 of IPGPhor can be connected to any computer via a serial cable. GE Healthcare provides a monitoring software but no post-hoc analysis software. This gap is efficiently filled by IPGPhor 2 Reader.

Today, I wrote “IPGPhor 2 Reader”. Its goal is to parse log (text) files resulting from an experiment with the IPGPhor and to plot graphs. This software (for MS-Windows, since IPGPhor logs are collected on a MS-Windows computer) is available here.

screenshot IPGPhor2Reader

What about recruitment companies?

I am slowly beginning to look for a job ; at least, for what I’ll do after my Ph.D. (there is still a lot of work in order to finish it!) (some people find that I am too slow at this quest for a job). I worked hard to develop the behavioural lab but I think that I wouldn’t be able to continue in this field (behavioural science doesn’t get a lot of funding). Anyway, I have some other people to see before I perhaps decide to reject this career option for/by myself.

Working in the industry could bring more new challenges … I recently read an ad for a recruitment company in References (the paper edition). If I understand correctly, a recruitment company hires skilled workers and gives them small contracts with other companies that need these skills for a short duration (these are not permanent contracts). I am wondering if we can trust these companies, how to see the ones that effectively do their jobs and the ones that just take unfair advantage of the worker and/or the client. Apart from that, they seem to have attractive jobs. I’ll put some links here, just in case: Volt Europe, i3 Parma, Progressives, … If someone reading this blog has some experience with such ressourcing company, I’ll be glad to hear from them.

Why cream is important on top of coffee?

a cup of coffee while reading some articles Not because it makes a beautiful “moustache” when we drink the coffee (as I told a Nespresso commercial) but to keep the coffee aroma inside the cup (as he told me, later).

This short line to say that the week-end was full of “things to do” and these “things” kept me away from real work. We went to Spa Balmoral for a grant interview for my wife, we went to Brussel for Bharati the show, we spent a delightful, sunny afternoon with my parents and we spent some time at the usual, annual Falisse cousins meeting (and it was also a pleasure to meet them all). Therefore, I am not sure to be able to do everything I planned in due time.